Divorce and Hidden Assets: What to Look for and How to Find Them

Jan 16, 2013 | Property Division

Divorces can bring out the worst qualities in people, specifically in the form of greed and deceit. The person you have shared everything with for the last 20 years may now become your greatest enemy as you litigate over money, assets, and child custody. One thing to consider as you divorce, especially if your spouse was the primary breadwinner of the family, is the potential of your spouse to hide assets and money from you during the divorce process. While it may be difficult to imagine your spouse robbing you of your rights to marital property, investigating the matter before your divorce is finalized is always in your best interest. A divorce attorney will be able to assist you in identifying potential hidden assets and can assure you that all marital property will be equitably divided. The following describe a few measures that can be taken to investigate whether or not your spouse is hiding money or assets from you:

Look into your tax returns. Your income taxes are a great starting point as you search for hidden assets and money. A dishonest spouse may be likely to lie to you, but lying to the IRS is an entirely different matter. The likelihood that he or she would hide real estate, bank accounts, or any other type of asset on a federal tax return is very low, although not unheard of.

Check bank account statements. One of the ways a spouse will attempt to hide money from you and the courts is by independently withdrawing a great amount of money from the marital accounts for personal use before the divorce has been filed. This can sometimes be done in one large lump sum, or in increments of smaller amounts. Nonetheless, this is a form of hiding assets, and you are entitled to your share of this money as the courts see fit.

Be aware of any “phony debt.” Another way in which a spouse can hide money from you is by entering into an agreement with a friend or family member in which a fake debt is set up to be paid to the creditor, with future plans of returning the money to your spouse, the debtor, once the divorce is finalized. This can be difficult to track, especially if there is no written agreement between your spouse and the third party. An attorney will be able to provide the resources necessary for you to confirm or disprove your suspicions.

Hire professional valuators. As you and your spouse begin the daunting task of taking inventory of your possessions and assets and placing a value on each item for the purpose of equitable division, it is in your best interest to hire a professional to valuate certain items. Valuation services can be used for assets as complex as the family business, or as simple as the furniture you’ve accumulated together over the years. That coin collection the two of you purchased at a garage sale 10 years ago, or that antique bedroom set you found at a flea market last summer, may very well be worth more than your spouse would like you to think. Before you agree to let him take that “junk” off your hands, remember that he may be aware of the true value of the items and may be hiding this knowledge from you. Hiring a professional valuator will ensure that you both are informed of the true value of your possessions, and that this valuation is officially documented.

Be aware of deferred financial benefits from employers. It is not uncommon for a spouse who anticipates a divorce to request a delay in certain benefits until after the divorce is finalized. This may be done in an effort to ensure that these benefits are considered separate property rather than marital property, subject to equitable division by the courts. Examples of such benefits could include bonuses, large commissions, and raises. In order to prevent this, you can contact the human resources department of your spouse’s employer and request to see records of your spouse’s income and benefits. As long you are still married, it is within your rights to see such records.

The above mentioned tactics are only a few of the ways in which an attorney will advise you to make yourself aware of hidden assets. Hidden assets can also include offshore bank accounts, cash kept in the form of travelers’ checks, manipulation of account information in the event that your spouse owns a business, and countless other forms of concealed money. Keep in mind that if found guilty of hiding assets, your spouse can be punished by the courts in the form of a greater reward for you as property is equitably divided. Hiring a divorce attorney who is skilled in finding hidden assets will work to your greatest advantage, as he or she will be equipped with the knowledge and resources necessary to investigate the matter in great detail.

For more information on how a divorce attorney can help you find hidden assets, please feel free to contact the Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler in Rockford, IL at 815-981-4859 for a free consultation. Please note, the above does not constitute legal advice. Please discuss your specific rights with an attorney in your own jurisdiction.